Physical activity and making your calories work for you

Physical activity and making your calories work for you

12th September 2019

After taking the summer off from writing blogs I decided to get back into things in the Autumn looking at increasing physical activity.

Over the last few months I have been doing some work on a project that has led me to a lot of helpful and supportive information about getting started or increasing levels of physical activity. I want to use this blog to share these with you.

I have very deliberately used the term 'physical activity' and not 'exercise', as many people find the word exercise off putting. We can all increase or improve our level of physical activity, but that doesn't mean that we need to go to a gym or put on Lycra shorts!

Increasing physical activity is the healthy option for everyone, regardless of your current weight status. Being physically active -

  • is good for your heart, lungs and leg muscles
  • reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • can help control your blood glucose levels if you have type 2 diabetes
  • helps with relieving stress
  • can make you feel better by releasing the endorphin hormone
  • as part of a plan for reducing your calorie intake can help with weight management.

The first thing for us to consider here is current recommendations. Then we'll look at some questions to help you review how physically active you are now.


New recommendations for physical activity in the UK were published on the 9the September 2019. There is little difference from before but now there are recommendations for the following groups -

  • children birth to 5 years
  • 5-18 years
  • adults 19 years and over
  • adults with a physical disability
  • pregnant women
  • women after child birth

To stay healthy, adults should try to be physically active every day, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity every week, such as walking, running, aerobics, swimming or cycling OR 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week


strength activities on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles - legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms such as tai chi, yoga, Pilates or lifting weights.

What about your level of physical activity?

Having look at the recommendations, now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How many days a week do I do moderate physical activity such as walking, swimming, running, cycling?
  2. How long do I do these physical activities?
  3. How often do I do strength activities?
  4. How often do I take activity classes like yoga or Pilates?

Now you have the beginning of a picture on your current levels of physical activity and how you might need to change. Start thinking through what would help you increase your physical activity levels and do strength activities. This might be doing an activity with a friend, or joining a local club or class.

Did you use to do an activity that you could consider starting up again? Have a look at this leaflet and use it to help you write a plan for getting started.

Ideas to move you forward

To help with ideas of physical activities, have a look at this web page and try out the excellent programme Couch to 5k, which gives a clear structured way to help people get started with jogging. If you don't feel ready to join a class or feel short of time, then for physical activities you can do at home try this page

Look for local clubs such as walking groups or walking football that you could join. Doing physical activity with other people can feel better for a lot of people. Using outdoor space such as parks and cycle paths is really great for getting started.

If you have a physical disability and are looking for some ideas then click here.

Challenges to getting started

If you find you are struggling with time, worrying about what to wear or the weather, then write down your concerns and see if you can come up with a solution. Some people use wearables, such as watches, activity trackers and apps to count their daily steps, to get them started and keep them motivated. The number most often used is 10,000 steps a day. If you are not at that level then start by aiming to increase your number of steps by 1000 over the week.

Health warning

If you have any concerns over your physical health and taking any form of physical activity then please speak to your GP before starting.

Remember it is always best to increase your level of physical activity gradually.

Dr Laura

September 2019

Image from the World Obesity Image bank